Published on Monday, 10/28/13, at 6:58 p.m. Eastern.
By Brian Edwards
Nobody wants to hear about injuries. Every football team at every level has to deal with them. Injuries aren’t an excuse, right?
I agree. I completely concur with that premise.
But when it comes to making major decisions about the present and future of a football program, injuries are to be taken into account. At least they should be.
And that’s why I think Will Muschamp is safe at the University of Florida. At least he should be.
I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw a bunch of tweets/stats, etc. comparing Muschamp’s tenure to that of Ron Zook’s. Those comparisons were made by many last week because it was at this point of Zook’s third year that he was handed a pink slip.
Muschamp has coached 33 games at UF. In nine of those games, the Gators’ starting quarterback was knocked out of the game in the first half or didn’t dress out because of injuries. Six of those nine games turned out to be losses.
I’m talking about John Brantley in 2011 and Jeff Driskel in 2013. In Muschamp’s first year, the roster didn’t have any quarterbacks other than Brantley. Driskel and Jacoby Brissett were the back-ups as true freshmen. Both had arrived in Gainesville as highly-touted recruits.
But neither was expected to perform well as freshmen. When Brantley went down vs. third-ranked Alabama with an ankle injury, Driskel played the entire second half and also injured his ankle, leaving both unable to go the following week at LSU.
The Gators went into Baton Rouge to face the top-ranked Tigers with a starting QB (Brissett) that had never taken a collegiate snap. The result was predictable.
Brantley returned to play against Georgia, but the dude basically had a cast on his foot. He was 70-percent healthy at best. He was still badly limping in another loss at South Carolina two weeks later. So to be fair, we should really extend that 3-6 stat to 4-8 (Brantley played in a win over Vandy between the losses to UGA & S-Car.) for Muschamp without a healthy starting QB.
Muschamp owns a 22-11 record at Florida. If we take out the games without the starting QB, his record is 18-3. In Urban Meyer’s first 21 games at UF in which Chris Leak was healthy for every game, his record was 18-3. In Steve Spurrier’s first 21 games in which Shane Matthews was healthy for every game, the Gators went (you guessed it) 18-3.
Since we’ve already handled the Muschamp comparisons to Meyer and Spurrier, let’s get back to the ridiculous Zooker convo. QB Rex Grossman was healthy for all of the 2002 campaign that was Zook’s first at UF. Can you imagine how bad that Gators team would’ve been without Grossman against Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia?
In Zook’s third year, can you fathom what a disaster the 2004 season would’ve been if Leak had gone down with a broken leg (like Driskel this year) and wasn’t available beyond a Week 3 game against Tennessee? Those are the circumstances Muschamp has had to deal with, not to mention a grand total of eight-season ending injuries so far this year.
Muschamp won 11 games in his second season and all UF needed to play for a national championship was a home win by USC over Notre Dame in the last week of the regular season. Zook never won more than eight games at Florida.
If you would’ve told me in August that before the Gators got on the plane for their fourth game at Kentucky, Driskel, Dominique Easley, Chaz Green and Andre DeBose would be out for the rest of the season, I would’ve told you they’d be lucky to win seven games.
I know the offense has been downright abysmal this year and in 2011. And it wasn’t exactly dynamic in 2012, either. I will concede that offensive coordinator Brent Pease has got to go unless the offense makes some serious strides in the next month.
But for those who think that Muschamp deserves to be on the proverbial hot seat, especially considering the rash of injuries this 2013 squad has endured, then those people don’t have a clue. Regardless of what goes down in Jacksonville this weekend, Muschamp should be more than safe to be UF’s head coach into 2014. And the bet here is that he’ll be around a lot longer than that.